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Caring for Country: An urban perspective

MSDI and its Indigenous partners aims to develop and implement projects that apply the principles of Caring for Country to protect and develop the urban form, while celebrating Aboriginal culture. The success of the initiative will be measured by practical results and the realisation of projects, for example innovation in urban design and engineering. The initiative provides considerable scope for international leadership and is best realised through partnership with the Victorian Government, business and the community, involving Indigenous and non-indigenous practitioners across the fields of architecture, design, engineering and community development.

Caring for Country is a term used to describe the different sustainable land management practices and initiatives that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples undertake, and the key role these practices play in continuing culture. Most commonly used to describe activities in remote and regional locations, Caring for Country encompasses the entirety of country - its past and future, its people, its integrated approach for sustainable land management. The Indigenous community is therefore able to bring an integrated perspective to the management of natural resources in an urban context and achieve the following aims:

  • support Indigenous and non-Indigenous engagement, cooperation and co-development
  • lead to world-class joint research
  • increase public awareness of the need to 'care for' our natural resources in an urban context
  • underpin the development of innovative sustainable development solutions, including buildings and infrastructure
  • attract public and private investment
  • create Indigenous employment opportunities
  • improve the capacity of cities to deal with the impacts of climate change

Key progress to date

The Urban Caring for Country logo for this project was designed by Gunditjmara man Rueben Berg. It makes reference to the initials of the project (UCC) as well as invoking ideas of a scarred tree - a key idea regarding sustainability within Aboriginal culture. It also invokes the idea of the coming together of various elements at a central hub, which is representative of cities.


The Inaugural Indigenous Caring for Country: An Urban Perspective Symposium took place on 25 May 2015 and marked the public commencement of MSDI's initiative and was developed in partnership with Victoria's Indigenous community and supported by the City of Melbourne.

The symposium brought together over 75 Indigenous and non-indigenous participants from across disciplines, levels of government, sectors and importantly a range of community organisations to consider whether the concept of Caring for Country could be applied in an urban environment.

The symposium was designed as a collaborative process structured to facilitate an exchange of ideas and information suited to the needs of the participants so that joint solutions could be developed. This joint leadership approach served to ensure that Aboriginal cultures were acknowledged and celebrated.

There was universal agreement from both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal participants that Caring for Country can be used in an urban context to recognise, celebrate and acknowledge Aboriginal culture and to engender positive sustainability outcomes. The partnership approach adopted by MSDI to deliver the symposium was acknowledged by participants as a method which could work to 'remove the resistance' manifested as a result of perfunctory engagement processes. The symposium was presented by MSDI in partnership with Indigenous Architecture and Design Victoria, the City of Melbourne and the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute. It was supported by the Victorian Government Department of Environment Land Water and Planning.

Download the Symposium Report or the Literature Review.

Indigenous Research Protocol

As part of its Caring for Country: An Urban perspective initiative the Monash Sustainable Development Institute supported the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub at the University of Melbourne (funded by the Australian Government's National Environmental Science Programme (NESP)) to present a workshop in October 2015 to explore the issues that would need to be considered in the development of an Indigenous Research Protocol (IRP).

Download a copy of the workshop report


The Caring for Country project was presented at the International Conference on Sustainable Development, Columbia University, New York, September 2016. The paper received a best paper award at the conference.

Establishment of Reference Group

With funding from the Victorian Government Department of Premier and Cabinet and the City of Melbourne, work is progressing to develop project proposals. A Reference Group has been established to guide this proecss and is comprised of the following members.

  • Professor Dave Griggs, Co-Chair
  • Rueben Berg, Co-Chair
  • Kate Vinot
  • Ian Hamm
  • Lauren Arabena
  • Mandy Nicholson
  • Abigail Burchill
  • Rhys Collins